CHAPTER XIII


AT ROSA'S HOUSE



David wore a ragged little cap on his curly hair and he pulled this off and shook hands when Rosa told him to. The stairway was narrow and dark and they had to walk up four flights, Rosa carefully guiding her visitor, before they reached the flat where Katie stood at the door to welcome them.

"I saw you coming down the street," she said, kissing Rosa. "How do you do, Elizabeth Ann ? We know all about you. Come in and see the children."

Katie was like Rosa, only not so tall. She was a pretty girl and the rooms in which she kept house were as neat as a pin. Elizabeth Ann liked the flat much better than her aunt's beautiful apartment, and who wouldn't with a baby like Mary toddling about and just begging people to kiss her ?

"Isn't she lovely!" Elizabeth Ann cried when little Mary came up to her and held up her arms.

Mary had the bluest eyes and the curliest golden hair and the cunningest little three- cornered smile! All the children loved her dearly, that was plain, and Elizabeth Ann did not wonder.

At first David and Joseph and Peter hung back and had nothing to say. Elsie and Ruth were in school, Katie said.

"Why are the boys home?" asked Rosa. "Peter, you have a full day session, don't you?"'

Peter nodded, his face rather red.

"I'll tell you after a while," whispered Katie to Rosa, and before the boys had found their tongues, Elsie and Ruth came in and Elizabeth Ann forgot to wonder why the three boys had stayed home from school.

The little lame Ruth smiled at the visitor and held out her hand.

"Rosa told me about you," she said happily. "You're always wishing for a little sister, aren't you? I think you have such a pretty name."

"I'm named for my two grandmas," explained Elizabeth Ann. "Who are you named for?"

That started all the children, and each one had to tell for whom he was named. Rosa and Katie laughed and said that they could not talk in such a noise, but they were evidently used to it and went on sewing and laughing and talking just the same.

Rosa's little brothers and sisters brought out all their treasures to show Elizabeth Ann, and she who was so tired of playing by herself, wished more than ever for some brothers and sisters of her own. Elsie and Ruth had huge families of paper dolls and furniture for a shoebox doll house which they had made themselves. David and Joseph played with paper soldiers, which Katie drew and cut out of newspaper for them, and they had battles with marbles. Elizabeth Ann rolled marbles half an hour and killed about half the soldiers. Joseph said that for a girl she had a very good aim. The baby Mary insisted on rolling marbles, too, and she never looked where she was rolling, so that she kept the other children busy hunting under chairs and tables for the marbles she sent flying. But they were never impatient with her.

"Let me show Elizabeth Ann my stamp collection, before I have to go deliver papers," said Peter, interrupting the soldier game.

He had a book half-full of stamps and was evidently very proud of them.

"Foreign ones are hard to get," he told Elizabeth Ann, turning over the neat pages for her to see. "The man at the paper store gave me some from Italy once, but most of mine are American stamps."

"I have some from Japan," she said timidly. Peter seemed quite grown up to her. "Would you like those ?"

"Would I!" answered Peter eagerly. "Gee, I'd like to have some Japanese stamps! But, say, don't you want to save them yourself?"

"They came last week on letters Mother and Daddy sent me." she explained. "They are in Japan, you know. I don't save stamps. I'd like you to have them, Peter. I'll give them to Rosa for you."

Peter went off whistling to deliver his papers. He was very much interested in his stamps, Rosa told Elizabeth Ann, and foreign stamps were difficult to get unless one bought them and, of course, Peter could not do that.

They had cocoa and crackers later in the afternoon and almost before Elizabeth Ann knew it, it was five o'clock and the honk-honk of the automobile sounded down in the street.

"There's Thomas for you, honey," said Rosa.

"I don't want to go home," she complained. "I want to stay and play."

"But you must go right away," said Rosa, bringing her hat and coat, "because if you are late your aunt won't let you come again. And we want you to come to see us again, you know."

"Yes, indeed," added Katie, kissing her good-bye. "You must come and tell us all about Japan and what they do there."

Rosa and David and Joseph and Elsie went down with them to the car, while Katie held Mary in her arms at the window and Ruth stood by her waving her hand.

Uncle Ralph was in the car, they found, and he laughed when he saw all the children.

"I don't wonder Elizabeth Ann teased to come home with you, Rosa," he said, a twinkle in his eye. "You must have a lively house with all those youngsters."

Thomas closed the door and Elizabeth Ann snuggled up to her uncle. Bound the corner shot a boy on roller-skates, a bundle of papers under his arm.

"Don't forget my Japanese stamps, will you?" he shouted.

"That's Peter," she said, leaning out beside Thomas to wave to Rosa's brother. "I'm going to give him the stamps that came on Daddy's last letter."

"We're going to the station first," said her uncle as Thomas turned out of Rosa's street into the avenue. "You and Aunt Isabel must be company for each other, because I am going off on a trip that will take me away from home for at least three weeks. I expect to sleep in a different city every night-can you imagine that, little girl?"

"I should think it would be fun!" she chuckled. "I like to sleep on the train, too. Oh, see all those lights!"

"That's the station," returned her uncle, picking up the leather bag that lay on the floor. "Kiss me now, dear, and be a good girl and do as Aunt Isabel says."

She kissed him and watched him disappear into the crowd of people that were hurrying into the station. She hoped they were not all going on Uncle Ralph's train, for it would surely be too crowded to be comfortable.

Thomas drove home quickly, after they left the station, and Annie said that Mrs. Wood had gone out to dinner and that Elizabeth Ann was to eat her supper and go to bed early.

"There's a letter for you on the dresser in your room," said Annie, when she had finished her supper.

It was from Mother, and she felt better after reading it. Daddy and she were well. Mother wrote, and while they missed their little girl, they hoped she was busy and happy and growing every day.

There was a little package of Japanese paper dolls enclosed in the letter which she put carefully away to show to Elsie and Ruth. She cut off the stamps, too, and put them away for Peter.

When she woke in the morning, Rosa was home and she said that the children were looking forward to seeing her again.

" I have some more stamps for Peter, " Elizabeth Ann announced, and Rosa was sure he would he pleased.

Uncle Ralph had not been home very much, or so Elizabeth Ann thought for she was used to seeing her father many times a day, but when he did not come home at all, everything seemed different. Aunt Isabel missed him very much and wrote to him every day though, she said, he probably would not get any of her letters; he was travelling about so much that mail could not catch up with him.

He had been gone about a week, when something happened that grieved the little girl very much. Rosa went away!

Elizabeth Ann came home from school one afternoon and found a letter from her mother awaiting her. Before she even opened it, she cut off the stamps and ran to find Rosa. She wanted her to put them with the others she was saving to take to Peter.

Rosa's room door was closed and she knocked softly. Rosa opened the door and the little girl hardly knew her. Her face was swollen with crying and she looked miserable and unhappy. She took the stamps from Elizabeth Ann, gave her a swift hug and kiss, and shut the door without a word. She heard her slide the bolt.

"Is Rosa sick?" she asked, running into Aunt Isabel's room and forgetting to knock in her excitement.

Aunt Isabel had been crying, too. She was lying on her couch and smelling Cologne. She sat up when she saw Elizabeth Ann.

"I'll telephone for the car and Thomas," she said. brightly, as though nothing was the matter. "We'll have a little drive, it's so pleasant to-day, dear."

When they came home from the drive, Elizabeth Ann could not find Rosa anywhere.




CHAPTER XIV


SORROWFUL NEWS


Scanned by Deidre Johnson for her Josephine Lawrence website; please do not use on other sites without permission


Elizabeth Ann wandered out into the kitchen where Annie, who looked hot and tired, was getting dinner.

' ' Where's Rosa?" she asked. "I've been in every room and I can't find her."

"Oh, for pity's sake!" scolded Annie, pouring out salad dressing, "Haven't I enough to bother me without you asking questions'? I have to get the dinner all alone and wait on the table, and your aunt's having company to dinner, too."

"Then who gets me my supper if Rosa isn't here?" Elizabeth Ann asked, bewildered. "Did Rosa go home ? Will Aunt Isabel let me stay up and have dinner with her, do you think, Annie "

Although at home she always ate her supper at six o'clock with Daddy and Mother, here at Aunt Isabel's she had supper by herself, for Aunt Isabel's dinner was not served till seven o'clock. Rosa always got her supper ready and sat and talked to her while she ate.

"Of course you can't stay up," declared Annie. "I haven't time to be bothering with a second table, but I'll bring you bread and milk. You run along now, there's a good girl, and read a book or something till I get around to fixing a tray for you."

Clearly Annie was upset, for she was used to getting dinner and had always been smiling and good-natured at her work. Perhaps Rosa had had to go home suddenly, and Annie was cross because she had her work to do as well as her own.

Aunt Isabel was dressing for dinner and she called her as Elizabeth Ann was passing the door.

"Dear, will you try to hook my dress on the shoulder?" she asked her. "I'm afraid Mrs. Carter will come before I am dressed. Have you had your supper?"

"Annie hasn't time to get it right away,"

Elizabeth Ann explained, climbing into a chair so that she could reach the hook on the pretty pink gown. "Where is Rosa, Aunt Isabel?"

Rosa usually hooked Aunt Isabel's frocks for her. Indeed Rosa did everything for everybody. And she was always laughing and humming a little and you could tell, just by looking at her, that she liked to do things for people.

"Thank you, dear," said Aunt Isabel, when she had fastened her dress for her. "I'll see that Annie brings you some supper. You had better begin to undress right away, because it is later than usual and you ought to be sleepy after our drive in the fresh air. Hurry, there is the bell!"

Elizabeth Ann went slowly to her room, that beautiful pink-and-white room she had thought so lovely when she first saw it. She heard Annie go to the door, and then several voices laughing and talking at once-Aunt Isabel's company had come.

"She never said where Rosa was," she thought, sitting down on the floor to unlace her shoes. "I do think it is too funny that she didn't tell me, if she was going anywhere."

She undressed, and brushed her hair and teeth and washed her face and hands. Then she put on her pink kimono and slippers, and still Annie did not come. She opened the door of her room and listened. Down the hall she could hear them laughing and talking in the dining-room.

"I'm so hungry," she sighed, "and I want Rosa."

It was so still in her room that she could hear the ticking of the little white clock on her dresser. She was only seven, remember, and she was hungry, and she thought that everyone had forgotten all about her. She missed her mother and the kind, good Rosa had all at once disappeared. Elizabeth Ann really had enough troubles to excuse her, so you must not think it babyish that she should begin to cry. She felt so forlorn and miser- able and unhappy that she took Nancy and the little white elephant, which Mr. Robert had given her and which she kept in her handkerchief box, and the bundle of letters from Mother and Daddy into bed with her, and she cried over them all until she fell asleep.

Here Aunt Isabel found her, when she brought her bread and milk and vanilla ice- cream as an extra treat, and Aunt Isabel paid no attention to her pretty pink dress, but sat down on the bed and held Elizabeth Ann in her lap while she ate her supper. Then she took all the things out of the bed (except the elephant which was under the pillow where she did not see it) and made it all smooth and neat, and kissed her and tucked her in and Elizabeth Ann went to sleep again and slept until morning.

It was strange, eating breakfast with Aunt Isabel, and no Rosa to bring them the muffins, and she felt very lonely. Aunt Isabel read the newspaper and her letters-there was one from Uncle Ralph and he sent his love to his little niece-and she did not venture to ask: her again about Rosa.

"Mother always says it isn't polite to keep asking questions, and if folks don't answer them it means they don't want to," Elizabeth Ann said to herself as she started off to school, "but I don't think it is polite not to say any- thing when people ask you questions, so there!"

She had another surprise when she came home from school that noon. A tall, severe- looking woman, with red hair and dark eyes which her spectacles made look much larger than they really were, opened the door. She wore the stiffest white apron Elizabeth Ann had ever seen, and she had a deep voice that sounded very solemn and serious.

"You're Miss Elizabeth Ann, aren't you?" said this strange woman. "Your aunt wants you to wash your hands and come right to the table. She is at lunch with Mrs. Ellis."

Elizabeth Ann knew Mrs. Ellis, a great friend of Aunt Isabel's. She often came for luncheon, and she laughed and talked so much that Elizabeth Ann could only listen and eat quietly.

Aunt Isabel smiled as Elizabeth Ann, having washed her hands nicely, came into the dining-room. The strange woman drew back her chair for her, and she realized that she was doing as Rosa did.

"This is Esther, dear," said Aunt Isabel, and Elizabeth Ann tried to smile at the person who was taking her dear Rosa's place.

"How do you do, dear?" said Mrs. Ellis, politely, and then she went on talking to Aunt Isabel.

"But when did you discover it?" she asked. Aunt Isabel did not reply until Esther had served them with creamed chicken and peas and gone out of the dining-room.

"I missed my ring yesterday morning," said Aunt Isabel when Esther had closed the swinging door that led into the kitchen. "I didn't want to say anything then, for fear I had mislaid it and would accuse Rosa unjustly. But soon after lunch I went into the living-room and just happened to glance into Ralph's case of carvings. And, Sally, the elephant wasn't there!"

Both Mrs. Ellis and Elizabeth Ann stared at Aunt Isabel in astonishment. The little girl knew that the elephant was not only worth a great deal of money but that it was a very rare carving, and that Uncle Ralph thought more of it than all the rest of his collection.

"And Rosa knew it was valuable?" said Mrs. Ellis.

"Of course," answered Aunt Isabel. "She is a remarkably intelligent girl, you know, and she knew a great deal about the different carvings. She knew enough to select the most valuable one, anyway. I've just learned this morning that she needed money badly. It seems, one of her sisters is lame and should have an operation to cure her, and that all her savings have been loaned to a brother of her mother who lives in California. The man I sent to investigate tells me that her three brothers had to stay out of school recently while their clothes were being patched, because they had no others to wear."

"But she should have explained this to you," cried Mrs. Ellis, her rings sparkling as she lifted her teacup. "She ought to have known that you would help her."

"Of course I would have helped her," said Aunt Isabel. "I trusted her absolutely. She cried so yesterday afternoon when I accused her of taking the ring and elephant, that I was upset and cried, too. I wouldn't have her arrested, even if I never get the things back. She denied flatly that she had taken them, of course; they always do. But I must say I never would have believed that Rosa would steal from me."

Elizabeth Ann's eyes were like two saucers. She had not understood everything that Aunt Isabel and Mrs. Ellis said, for they talked fast and used several long words. But she understood Aunt Isabel's last sentence. Rosa had gone away because she was called a thief. No wonder she had cried! Elizabeth Ann grew perfectly crimson. She choked a little.

"Rosa wouldn't steal!" she cried, pushing back her plate. "She wouldn't, Aunt Isabel! I think you are horrid to say that about her and to make her cry! I'll tell Uncle Ralph I I'll-"

The angry tears overflowed and Elizabeth Ann began to sob.

Then Aunt Isabel spoke in a voice she had never used before to the little girl.

"Elizabeth Ann," she said sternly, "Go to your room and stay there until I come to you."

Elizabeth Ann rushed to her room and flung herself, crying wildly, on the bed.




CHAPTER XV

ALMOST LOST

Scanned by Deidre Johnson for her Josephine Lawrence website; please do not use on other sites without permission


Elizabeth Ann did not go back to school that afternoon. For one thing, her eyes were too swollen with crying, and for another Aunt Isabel did not come for an hour and then, of course, it was too late to go. She had stopped crying when her aunt opened the door, but her eyes felt very tired and sore.

Aunt Isabel sat down in the rocking chair and looked at her.

"I don't think my little girl realizes how rude she was," she said slowly. Elizabeth Ann twisted uneasily on the bed. "Come over here by me, dear," said her aunt. "Would Mother allow you to speak to her as you did to me at the lunch table?"

Elizabeth Ann came slowly over to the rocking chair.

"Mother wouldn't-" she began, then she stopped.

She had meant to say that mother wouldn't say that anyone so dear and good and kind as Rosa could steal, but she was an honest little girl and knew that no matter what had been said she had been most rude. "I'm sorry I wasn't polite," she faltered. Aunt Isabel stroked the bobbed brown hair kindly.

"I'm sure you didn't mean to be impolite, dear," she said. "And now I will tell you about Rosa. I am just as sorry as you are to have her leave us like this, but there was no other way."

Then Aunt Isabel explained that her beautiful square diamond and sapphire ring was gone, and that she was sure Rosa, who knew where all her rings were kept, had taken it.

"Any other thief would have taken the jewel case," said Aunt Isabel. "And instead of taking the elephant, he would have taken dozens of the carvings. I think Rosa had an idea that she would take just enough stuff to

sell and get a certain sum of money for her family. She may have thought that we would not miss these two things. And she was right about the carving, for Uncle Ralph has been gone more than a week and I missed the elephant only yesterday morning."

"But she didn't take my elephant," insisted Elizabeth Ann. "She knew he was in my handkerchief box. ' '

"Your elephant?" said Aunt Isabel. "Why, what do you mean?"

Elizabeth Ann ran to her room and tumbled the clean handkerchiefs out of the cretonne box. There was the elephant on the blue rib- bon, just as he had always been. She took it to Aunt Isabel who was surprised and who, of course, wanted to know where she had found it

"I didn't find it, Mr. Robert gave it to me," she explained proudly. "It is to remember him by."

"But who is Mr. Robert?" asked Aunt Isabel. "This elephant is carved of ivory, dear, and the green eyes are real emeralds. I don't believe Uncle Ralph knew there was another one so nearly like his."

Elizabeth Ann told her about Mr. Robert, and Aunt Isabel asked a great many questions.

"Well, I think better of Rosa that she didn't take your elephant," Aunt Isabel declared when she had heard all about the train and Mr. Robert. Somehow she had never had time to listen before, though Elizabeth Ann had told Rosa and Annie many times. "Put the carving away carefully, Elizabeth Ann-- it is a very valuable gift. I am hopeful that Rosa will confess that she took the ring and the elephant, and tell us where she has hidden them; I am sure Uncle Ralph will help her if she will only be frank."

"Did you write him about-about Rosa?" the little girl asked unhappily.

"Yes, I have written," replied Aunt Isabel, "but I do not know when he will receive my letter; he may get home before it reaches him. He is travelling about so, that he may easily miss all his mail."

Elizabeth Ann was very lonely in the days that followed, without Rosa. Aunt Isabel had a great deal of company, and went visiting herself often, and when Elizabeth Ann was not in school she found time hanging rather heavy on her hands. Esther and Annie seemed to find plenty to say to each other, and they laughed and joked as they worked about the apartment, but Esther, though she was kind, never told Elizabeth Ann stories or played with her as Rosa had done.

"Where's that nice girl who used to come out with you?" one of the children on the Drive asked her one afternoon. "She showed me how to knit."

"She's gone away," answered Elizabeth Ann, who was so sure in her own mind that Rosa had not taken the ring or the elephant that she was resolved not to let anyone know why Rosa had gone.

"Well, if you ever see her," remarked the girl whom Rosa had taught to knit, "you tell her my mother says she does the best knitting she ever saw."

"I wish I could go to see Rosa," said Elizabeth Ann to herself.

Then an idea came to her so suddenly that she sat down on the grass to think it over. Why shouldn't she go to see Rosa? She had been once, and she was sure she remembered the way. She would give her a kiss and tell her that she didn't believe she had taken the ring or the elephant. Sitting there in the sun she remembered the first walk she and Rosa had taken together. Rosa had told her about her brothers and sisters.

"I wish I could see her," Elizabeth Ann said again.

Then she remembered Mr. Robert and what he had said about making wishes come true. Rosa had said she was sure he was right.

"If I want to see Rosa and I go to see her," Elizabeth Ann argued, "that is helping to make my wish come true. I'll get the stamps I saved for Peter and take them to him."

The next day was Saturday, and she decided that would be a good day to go. She waited until after lunch when Aunt Isabel went to a matinee with some friends, and Annie and Esther were busy in the kitchen, making dessert for the Sunday dinner.

Elizabeth Ann put the Japanese stamps carefully in an envelope and put on her hat. It was so warm out that she thought she would not wear her coat, but Annie saw her as she was going toward the door.

"Put your coat on, dearie." she commanded. "You never know when a breeze will blow in from the river. Don't forget to come in at five o'clock, and don't make Esther come out looking for you."

Elizabeth Ann nodded. She was glad Annie did not ask her where she was going.

Albert and Jerry and Charles, playing on the sidewalk, invited her to play "tag" with them, but she had no time for tag. She walked quickly to the corner and began the climb up the hill.

"We went up to where the bus runs," she kept repeating to herself so she would not forget. "And then we got out and walked down a crooked street. I know I remember just how to go."

She stopped the first bus she saw, and climbed on. The conductor helped her up the winding stairs and lifted her into one of the seats. Elizabeth Ann was sure she could have reached the top safely without him, though as the bus did not wait until she had climbed the stairs, but started as soon as she stepped on, she was rather glad he was there.

"Where do you want to get off?" he asked her, when he came to collect her fare.

She loved to poke the ten cents in the box he carried. Rosa always let her pay the fares when they went riding together, so she knew just how to do it.

"I don't know the name of the street," she told the conductor, who was waiting for an answer to his question, "but I know it when I see it."

She kept watching the streets as the bus rolled past the corners and after they had been going perhaps half an hour, she saw a street that looked like the one she remembered.

She pressed the little black button, and the conductor swung her down the stairs and on to the curb.

"You're pretty little to be travelling alone," he said to her as he rang his bell for the bus to go ahead.

She did not think she was "pretty little." Hadn't she come all the way from Pompton to New York by herself?

She started down the street, swinging her little red purse on its brass chain. She remembered that she and Rosa had walked several blocks before they had reached the yellow brick building where Katie and the other children lived.

"I think it's most time for it now," she thought, wishing that Annie had not made her wear her coat. The sun was warm, though there had been a breeze on top of the bus.

"I don't see where that place is," was her next thought. "I didn't know it was as far as this. Was there a grocery store in the middle of the block, I wonder?"

But Elizabeth Ann passed the grocery store and still there was no yellow brick building. In fact there were no brick houses. The houses kept getting smaller and they were built of wood.

"I don't remember that house," she said, when she came opposite a little brown house with a yard in front filled with scraps of old iron.

Then, in a minute, she knew that she was not on the street where Rosa lived. There were no brick buildings, no crowds of children playing in the streets. Instead, to her surprise, she walked into a tiny park. The street ended there by a dusty fountain that looked as though it had never had any water in it.




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